Lavs and Handhelds and Headworns, Oh My!

“You can get a 3mic package with 2handhelds, or we can use a 5mic system with the 4 lavs and a handheld as a backup….So, how many people are going to be talking on stage at once?”

You’re still in the process of wrangling your panel guests and still don’t quite know how many may be available. And while the new CMO won’t do anything except a headworn mic, you’re pretty sure your CIO is going to want a handheld.

How can you manage all of the equipment options and still choose the best audio package for your budget? As the adage goes, knowledge is power. So here’s a primer on managing your mic selections.

1) Handhelds
Maximum flexibility, old school style


  • These are great Q&A’s and – in a pinch – when someone is presenting for a short period of time.
  • Use for casual panel discussion where wireless lapel/lavalier mics are not available
  • Good to have close to the stage in case of lav failure (it happens!)


  • Presenters find them awkward and need to be reminded not to eat, drop, hit or otherwise abuse the mic. (Well, I suppose they could drop the mic to make a point, but still…)
  • Panel discussions can be a mixing console nightmare when everyone decides to speak at once. The mic is literally the talking stick, so when one person is holding it up to speak, everyone else needs to put their talking sticks down and listen.

2) Lavalieres/Lapel microphones


  • Talk about inconspicuous! Some of these are the size of your pinky nail, but they still pack a lot of power.
  •  Look Ma! No Hands!” Presenters are free to gesticulate as much as they want.
  • Tip: Proper placement is approximately 6” down from the chin and centered.


  • They are extremely sensitive, which means that lanyards, necklaces, etc. should be removed or you’ll get sporadic – and annoying – brushing/clinking/whooshing…and yet…
  • Extreme turns of the head will negate any quality audio when the mic is placed off-center. Just remember, mics go in the middle.

3) Headworn microphones


  • They have the best quality because they are placed over the ear with the mic to the side of the mouth. This does not mean touching the cheek. Then you get a weird skin-rubbing sound that you definitely want to avoid.
  • For video recording, they provide the cleanest audio, at the highest level before running into any feedback issues.


  • Some presenters haven’t had exposure to them, but after a few minutes of practice, they’ll feel like they were born with a silver mic in their mouth (well, close to it anyway.)

Finding the right combination is the sweet spot of good audio design. And knowing what your options are, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about what makes sense for your meeting.

If only getting guest speakers was as easy…